Tuesday, March 20, 2012

20 March 1933 “Dreams of Summer: Watermelon Rind Pickles and Bicycles and the Tale of an American Company”

It was so warm and lovely yesterday, 70 F (21 C) and it felt like a Summer day. I had tea with hubby and a friend at our local tea shop, their windows open and the breeze of the town mill pond blowing in. I  planted some cold temperature Pansies in my window boxes. My heart flutters for Summer. Therefore I thought I’d post about Summery things.

Let’s start with this lovely recipe for watermelon pickles. I adore watermelon pickles and in our current economic times, the cost of such dear Summer fruit is offset by the use of the entire thing. No waste when one pickles the rind.

Here is the recipe from one of my 1930’s cookbooks with lovely pictures to help you on your way.

watermelonrind1watermelonrind2 watermelonrind3

The warm weather has me eyeing my bicycle as a fun activity rather than just a mode of sometimes transportation.bikecartoonThis fun cartoon from the 1930’s was part of a movement to increase bicycle use to boost the economy. At the time, many families had had to lose or sell their automobiles. They could also be a boon to homemakers or teens who no longer had cars to borrow for outings.

This cartoon also depicts the two wheels as silver dollars, such as this 1934 version.30ssilverdollar In 1933, actually, there were no minted silver dollars. Here is why:

“Introduced in December of 1921, the Peace dollar, designed by medalist Anthony de Francisci, was promulgated to commemorate the signing of formal peace treaties between the United States on the one hand, and Germany and Austria on the other, thus officially ending America's World War I hostilities with these two countries. In 1922 the Mint made silver dollar production its top priority, causing other denominations to be produced sparingly if at all that year. Production ceased temporarily after 1928; original plans apparently called for only a one year suspension, but this was extended by the Great Depression. Mintage resumed in 1934, but for only two years.”

But, they would still have been in circulation at this time. And so make a great foil for a ‘Buy-cycle’ wheel demonstrating a boost to the American economy.

It is of interest to note that these Silver Peace Dollars were, like many silver coins of the time prior to the mid 1960’s, 90% silver and 10% copper. That means in today’s value, this one dollar coin would have the value of around $32.00 at the current price of silver. However, a dollar bill would simply be worth a dollar. And when one looks at inflation, one dollar in 1933 would buy, today you would need $17.50 for each of those dollars to buy the same product. An interesting way to look at inflation and stores of value.

Of course bikes, such as the ever popular Schwinn, were still manufactured in the USA at that time and therefore would be a boost to increase the need for jobs at its American plant.

bike The 1930’s Schwinn, I am happy to say, look rather similar to my vintage 50’s bike. Though the color of my teal blue bike is more 50’s, I can still feel the vintage gal this summer coasting around town and to the beach as usual.

This year, 1933, was the introduction of the first ‘Balloon Tires’. That is a tire with an inner tube, much as we use today. Prior to that date, bike tires were simply just that, the tire you filled with air.

I recall my father telling me that when he was a child in the War years (WWII) rubber was confiscated for the war effort. Thus they filled their tires with hay to keep them firm. Had they simply had the old pre 1933 tires, they would have been able to fill them without need of an inner tube. Though all those tires were probably already taken for the war effort.

The following images and text come from the original 1933 Arnold, Schwinn Company catalog. These models were offered both with and without balloon tires.

Schwinn 1933 Bicycle Catalog

Schwinn model B 10E MotorbikeB 10E Motorbike Fully Equipped

Frame: 18x 22 inches.
Tires: 26 x 2 1/8″ Cord Balloon.
Saddle: No. 1 Bucket.
Handlebars: Chromium finish with brace
Pedals: No. 10 Torrington.
Guards: Chromium finish.
Rims: Deep drop center chromium finish
Color: Black with red trim. Optional red and white or blue and white.
Coaster brake: Optional.
Equipment: As illustrated

schwinn-b-9-motorbikeB 9 Motorbike

Frame: 18x 22 inches.
Tires: 26 x 2 1/8″ Cord Balloon.
Saddle: No. 1 Bucket.
Handlebars: Chromium finish with brace
Pedals: No. 10 Torrington.
Guards: Chromium finish.
Rims: Deep drop center chromium finish
Color: Black with red trim. Optional red and white or blue and white.
Coaster brake: Optional.

Model B 4 CamelbackB 4 Camelback

Frame: 18x 22 inches.
Tires: 26 x 2 1/8″ Cord Balloon.
Saddle: No. 1 Bucket.
Handlebars: Chromium finish with brace
Pedals: No. 10 Torrington.
Guards: Chromium finish.
Rims: Deep drop center chromium finish
Color: Black with red trim. Optional red and white or blue and white.
Coaster brake: Optional.

b-3-ladies-modelB 3 Ladies’ Model

Frame: 18 inches.
Tires: 26 x 2 1/8″ Cord Balloon.
Saddle: Ladies comfort.
Handlebars: No. 5 Chromium
Pedals: No. 9 Torrington.
Guards: Chromium finish.
Rims: Deep drop center chromium finish
Color: Black with red trim. Optional red and white or blue and white.
Coaster brake: Optional.

b-1.5-motorbikeB 1 1/2 Motorbike

Frame: 16 x 20 inches.
Tires: 26 x 2 1/8″ Cord Balloon.
Saddle: No. 1 Bucket.
Handlebars: Chromium finish with brace
Pedals: No. 10 Torrington.
Guards: Chromium finish.
Rims: Deep drop center chromium finish
Color: Black with red trim. Optional red and white or blue and white.
Coaster brake: Optional.

b-1.5-e-motorbikeB 1 1/2 E Motorbike

Frame: 16 x 20 inches.
Tires: 26 x 2 1/8″ Cord Balloon.
Saddle: No. 1 Bucket.
Handlebars: Chromium finish with brace
Pedals: No. 10 Torrington.
Guards: Chromium finish.
Rims: Deep drop center chromium finish
Color: Black with red trim. Optional red and white or blue and white.
Coaster brake: Optional.
Equipment: As illustrated.

1933-schwinn-b-1-camelbackB 1 Camelback

Frame: 16 x 20 inches.
Tires: 26 x 2 1/8″ Cord Balloon.
Saddle: Bucket type.
Handlebars: Chromium finish with brace
Pedals: No. 10 Torrington.
Guards: Chromium finish.
Rims: Deep drop center chromium finish
Color: Black with red trim. Optional red and white or blue and white.
Coaster brake: Optional.

1933-schwinn-r-racer#R Racer

Frame: 20, 22 or 24 inches.
Tires: Racing 28 x 1 1/8 inch.
Saddle: Racing  type.
Handlebars: Racing type, chromium finish.
Pedals: Racing type.
“Designed and built to meet the exacting requirements of racing, this sturdy, easy running wheel will give a good account of itself anywhere.”

Schwinn Built Bicycles…

1933-schwinn-factory“have been nationally known for more than thirty-five years as staunch, high grade, easy running wheels. Their reputation is backed by the long and honorable record of Arnold, Schwinn & Co. Since 1895 these famous bicycles have been built in this huge, modern factory with no change of organization or management. Naturally, this wealth of manufacturing experience is reflected in the quality of the product.”

Schwinn was started in the 1890’s in Chicago by a German Immigrant who received backing from a German American meat Packer. The new company coincided with the new bicycle craze hitting America (imported from our European cousins).  The Schwinn company had thirty factories turning out thousands of bikes every day. Bicycle output in the United States grew to over a million units per year by the turn of the 19th to 20th century.

By 1905 bicycle sales nation wide had been reduced %25 due to the increase production and availability of the automobile.  Many smaller firms were either bankrupt or bought up by the larger companies. Schwinn bought up more small concerns and added a motorcycle division which became Excelsior-Henderson.

With the coming Crash of ‘29 most such companies were bust and almost all the American motorcycle companies were gone, including the new Excelsior-Henderson. So, Schwinn’s son, now running the company, went to Europe to study their more stronger bicycle innovations. He returned this year, 1933, and made the Schwinn B-10E Motorbike. It was not actually a motorized bike, but had an area that looked like an engine and included wider tires with inner tubes, a light, fenders, and a bell. This would eventually become the Cruiser or Beach Cruiser we know today.

In the 1950’s, European import of bikes began to dominate the American market. The lighter weight British bikes made up 95% of those imports. The American Companies were having trouble competing with the lower cost bikes available from war-torn Europe and Britain. So In August 1955:

the Eisenhower administration implemented a 22.5% tariff rate for three out of four categories of bicycles. However, the most popular adult category, lightweight or 'racer' bicycles, were only raised to 11.25%. The administration noted that the U.S. industry offered no direct competition in this category, and that lightweight bikes competed only indirectly with balloon-tire or cruiser bicycles. The share of the US market taken by foreign-made bicycles dropped to 28.5% of the market, and remained under 30% through 1964. Despite the increased tariff, the only structural change in foreign imports during this period was a temporary decline in bicycles imported from Great Britain in favor of lower-priced models from Holland and Germany. In 1961, after a successful appeal by bicycle importers, the Eisenhower tariffs were declared invalid by the Court of U.S. Customs Appeals, and President Kennedy imposed new a new tariff rate at 50% on foreign-made bicycles, a rate which remained in place until 1964.

After Kennedy, however, our country began to change as far as imports and tariffs were concerned. And sadly by the late 1970’s, the continued inflation of our dollar in this country led to labor disputes. High costs of living due to inflation combined with stagnant pay and harder to compete with imports prices, (no longer made competitive and fair with U.S. tariffs) 1400 assembly workers walked off the job for 13 weeks.

Now even lower cost bicycles were imported from Asia and again, no tariffs were in place to make American companies have the ability to compete while giving a fair living wage, the company declined. It moved what remained of its manufacturing to Mississippi where they could be made cheaper. This factory continued to decline until it laid off its remaining 250 workers and closed for good in 1991.

In 1991 Schwinn, now completely getting products from overseas, tried to focus on Brand enhancement and moved into other towns. At this time, the smaller bike shops were filling the Mountain Bike craze and only led to hurt these small shops trying to get off the ground and of course provide jobs for locals.

“In September 2001, the Schwinn Company, its assets, and the rights to the brand, together with that of the GT Bicycle, was purchased at a bankruptcy auction by Pacific Cycle, a company previously known for mass-market brands owned by Wind Point Partners. In 2004, Pacific Cycle was in turn acquired by Dorel Industries.”

Dorel Industries is huge. It continual buys up and abosorbs bankrupt companies, made so by the current system of business as usual. And as an example of how huge such business get, here are the many other brands that Dorel sells under other names:

  • Altra
  • Ameriwood
  • Babideal
  • Baby Relax
  • Bebeconfort
  • Bertini
  • Bootiq
  • Cannondale
  • Carina
  • Cosco
  • DHP
  • Go Safe
  • GT Bicycles
  • InSTEP
  • Iron Horse
  • Maxi-Cosi
  • Monbebe
  • Mongoose
  • Mother's Choice
  • Quinny
  • Ridgewood
  • Roadmaster
  • Safety 1st
  • Schwinn
  • System Build
  • SUGOI
  • Zuzu

Here are the owners and the earnings and worker totals:

Key people
Leo Schwartz (Founder)
Martin Schwartz (CEO)
Alan Schwartz
Jeffrey Schwartz
Jeff Segel

Revenue
increase US$ 2.484 billion (2010)

Net income
increase US$ 127.853 million (2010)

Total assets
increase US$ 2.096 billion (2010)

Employees
4,700 (2010)

That seems a very large amount of money to a few people. We see very few employees yet so much wealth accumulating to a few. All at the expense of a large concern that once created jobs and products in our own country which is simply just one of the many such companies absorbed by a corporation like this. It is news and information like this that makes me understand the 1% we hear speak of so much today.

This is  sad but seems rather a normal tale of the American business and its production. The last of our moves made both by Eisenhower and Kennedy to make a fair playing field with tariffs that would allow our country to compete with larger corporations who had no problem outsourcing jobs. I don’t want to end this summer post on a sad note, but it seems again whenever I follow the line of a story I find myself here again in a world focused more on profit margin than way of life.

It makes me see now how one could be on either side of things like wage strikes. How some would see workers as selfish for wanting more and that they were the cause of a company going under. All the while, the increase in inflation would simply make your current pay really less, as food and fuel costs rise (sound familiar?) and the company could not compete because of the removal of tariffs that supported American business over foreign imports.

The American company stopped being an American company and cared little for the country it was in as it could go to Asia and make it so much cheaper to sell to all of us. And then we happily lapped it up as our own manufacture and thus labor and pay became less due to it.

It is a sad state indeed. Here in the 1930’s strikes and labor rights are not viewed as they were in the 1960’s. There was no ‘oh look at those hippys’ as here it is seen as right and just that those who have worked hard with a company should earn a fair wage. And it is also right that a company should feel the support of its government over overseas competition. But, I am afraid, we are so far removed from that idea with the vast changes and media ideas of what the previous decades stood for that most don’t even really understand the history of how our country once worked. I know, for me, it is continually a contradiction from what I once believed to what actually appears to be the truth.

I don’t want to end on a dour note, but I do want us to be aware of our world and how it once was. Whether or not it can ever be that way again, I don’t know? Every time I seem to go back a bit further it becomes a bit clearer. Who knows next year I might have to travel back to pre 1913 which is when the inflation of the American dollar began. That would be quite a journey.

I’ll close with this fun little movie advert shown at the pictures of these Swell Speed-O bikes as demonstrated by Spanky of Our Gang the Little Rascals. Happy Dreams of Summer and Happy Homemaking!

10 comments:

  1. I love watermelon pickles. The first time I ordered them at Pitty Pat's Porch (yes, only in Atlanta would you find a resturant named this) my non-southern husband thought I was crazy. I'm glad your enjoying the warmer weather. Here, it's been so warm my winter pansies are needing extra water. Thanks for wonderful blog post. Have a warm and wonderful day!

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  2. I would love to have a bike but I really don't have anywhere safe to ride it. Or the money to buy one LOL.
    Yours is so cute.
    That reminds me... are you still dressing 50's or are you doing 30's? A mix? Just curious. :)

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  3. "I find myself here again in a world focused more on profit margin than way of life." Money certainly seems to be the end all and be all in our society. Life and death decisions are being made with a cold heart because of money. I am not a "human resource." I am a person. People forget that you cannot take it with you and you cannot send it ahead. Money doesn't make you a better person. It isn't money, but the *love* of money that is the root of all evil.

    Life really was better in the fifties to early sixties. That is not to say that the "gritty" part of life wasn't present. That has been around since Adam. At least there was a veneer of morality and social graces. Alas, that veneer is gone, and all we see is the ugly.

    It reminds me of the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life." In the movie we saw life with George Bailey and life without George Bailey. Alas, life depicted without George Bailey is here. It is sad, indeed.

    G.

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  4. Amazing research as usual - thankyou!!
    I can't wait for the rain to stop so I can get back on my bike - it's a repro red dutch bike I got for my bithday in November last year (here's a photo, without mould and rust as mine is sure to have under it's cover, http://www.dixonbikes.com.au/reddutch.php). My grandmother, who was dutch, had a real one in black for many years, and I always loved it. xxx

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  5. What's even more disturbing about the list of companies owned by Dorel industries is that a lot of them have sold products that have been so dangerous that they've had to have been recalled. Many of them were baby products where children have been killed or severely injured!

    On a lighter note, I too have taken my bike out already as our weather has been unseasonably warm. I love the warm weather!

    Sarah H

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  6. During WWI rubber was not "taken" for the war effort, rather, it was donated by good citizens. There was not this 'us vs. them", "the government and war effort is evil" like so many liberals think today. We were proud of our soldiers, proud of our country and proud to be American. It is shameful the way people today blame the government for the poor choices that they make eg mortgages and cars that they can not afford, refusing to move to a new area to find a better job, not going to college because they can not afford it. Everyone today wants to have everything right not and if they can not afford their life styles, they want the government to step in with a loan modification or to forgive their student loans. It is refreshing to see a blog like yours where you are taking responsibility for yourself and trying to like a frugal.self-sufficient lifestyle free from government aid and hand-outs .. that is the way we did it during the Great Depression, that is the way these lazy contemporary people need to do. Enough is enough, get a job, live within your means and take care of your family yourself.

    Shirley Waters

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  7. The gear system on this cruiser is the Shimano internal3-speed California Bikes.

    beach cruiser bicycles

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  8. shirley-I didn't mean 'take' I just misspoke. I think it was a drive where people got together and donated for the war effort.
    The one thing we need to be careful of, however, is a glib idea that 'those young people' are just lazy and need a job. Unfortunately we are currently losing more and more jobs, despite what is being said in the media. Today's youth also have predatory lending with student loans for schools so expensive that those in the Depression would never have even been subjected to. Rather than point fingers or put labels, which is what the powers that be do actually want. It is our RESPONSIBILITY as an American to follow the line of such accusations to see where they actually lead. If we think someone is trying to get something for free we need to investigate who these someone's are and what we think they are getting for free.
    We so easily make excuses for things like large banks, which in fact control quite a bit of the government with lobbyists. Company's such as MF global literally took money from peoples retirement accounts and also farmers in the farming belt. They do not have to give it back and are not held accountable. This creates more debt in the system in which we all have to live.
    I wish 'get a job' would be an easy answer and 'live within one's means' as well. But, it took me to take the time to really look to see the way I was living. There are so many who simply think the lifestyle of credit cards and student loans is just normal life. They haven't any way of knowing any other way. And at university on opening sign in days, there are literally hundreds of banks handing out credit cards. Why do their parents not stop them? Because either they don't know or also lived that way as well. This is, in fact, predatory.
    If corporations want to be seen as people. And we expect people to be good and not criminal, then why do corporations get to be criminal. We deride the individual for 'not getting jobs' but say or do nothing about banks and big business who literally care more about bottom line than people. The act of giving out credit which they know cannot be paid and then receive money both from the government as well as endless payments of high interest is basically legalized mafia.
    It makes me sad when our current concept of "America" is seen as to turn our backs on our fellow men and put our hands and wallets out to the corporation. That is NOT what they would have done in the 1930's and in fact, prior to the War, many people were getting upset with the government. There were strikes and unions as they felt government was getting too out of hand and too hand in hand with the big business. But, we are rarely taught that today.
    I think we need to LOOK into things more and understand where we all are and try to help one another and forget about what an 'idea' of America is and start making it a NEW AND BETTER idea of what America could be much like our ancestors before the rise of Big Business at the turn of the last century.
    In 1932 thousands upon thousands ex WWI soldiers rallied and picketed to the White House to get their payment expected in the 1940s early as they felt they had earned it protecting their country. Most people in every town supported them and cheered them on. They would throw pennies at them to keep them going for their cause. The people were united together against the rise of the big government backed by business. Today, we would spit on those soldiers and tell them to 'go get jobs' but there are less and less jobs available. Literally manufacturing has all but left our country, there are no ways to just start a business because of the immense amount of laws prohibiting small farmers and business owners. We are in a very scary place and I hate to think that those who, themselves, could be hurt are the first to throw stones at others in need.
    Let us all stop and consider before we toss that stone and realize we all want the same thing.

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  9. I was interested to see the pedals were listed as being made in Torrington. That is Torrington, CT at the Torrington Company. I live in a nearby town and ancestors worked at the Torrington Company. Unfortunately, like so many other factories, it is now just a vacant eyesore taking up space where it was once a major local employer.

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  10. Funny you should say 1913. The national bank, known as the Federal Reserve, was established in 1913. The Government gave over the responsibility, printing and control of the U.S. dollar to this private bank with zero transparency. We do know that more than 51% is non-U.S. owned and they set U.S. inflation policy...

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